LXXV BRITISH AND FRENCH MISSIONS 397
The Mission of Mehdi All Khan, 1799.—Mehdi Ali
Khan, a skilful diplomatist of the Persian school, had written
letters from Bushire to the Court at Teheran in which
he excited the indignation of the Shah by an account of
atrocities committed by the Sunni Afghans on the Shias
of Lahore, thousands of whom, he declared, had fled for
refuge to the territories ruled by the East India Company,
and at the same time urged that if Zaman Shah were
checked a service would be rendered to God and man.
He stated, furthermore, that the Governor-General did
not at all apprehend an Afghan invasion of Hindustan,
because the fame of the English artillery was well known.
As an example of what English troops could do, he
asserted that seven hundred of these brave soldiers had
defeated the army of Suraj-u-Dola numbering three
hundred thousand men!
In the autumn of 1799 Mehdi Ali Khan was received
in person by the Shah. Spending large sums in presents,
he succeeded in persuading the Persian monarch to
continue hostilities against Afghanistan ; and he then
returned to Bushire, where he met Captain Malcolm,
who had recently landed on his first memorable mission.
The French Peril to India.—It was owing to the
fantastic strain in Napoleon Buonaparte's character that
Persia was brought within the orbit of European politics.
Among his far-reaching plans was one for using the Shah
as an instrument in his scheme of world politics, more
especially in connexion with the invasion of India; and
at this time the minds of the British rulers in that country
were obsessed with fears of such an attack. To us, who
have studied large scale maps and are familiar with the
barrenness both of Persia and of Afghanistan, the scheme
has an impracticable appearance. But in 1800 it was
seriously contemplated by the Emperor Paul of Russia and
by Napoleon, to both of whom the difficulties to be
encountered were unknown. Examining the project on
a small scale map, they saw that the shortest line to India
ran ma Baku across the Caspian Sea to Astrabad Bay,
From this point the line would pass through Astrabad,
Meshed, and Herat, and doubtless both the Persians